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Tahoe residents are now safe from the break-ins of 400-pound bear after her capture

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

One of the most wanted home break-in suspects in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., has been captured.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

It's a big deal, really - almost a 400-pound deal.

JORDAN TRAVERSO: When we investigate a bear break-in, we go, and we take evidence to make sure that it was a bear.

KELLY: And it was indeed a massive black bear, according to Jordan Traverso, spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

SUMMERS: The bear has been notorious for damaging property and breaking into houses across the area for more than a year now, so notorious that residents gave the bear a nickname, Hank the Tank.

TRAVERSO: Although she is a female bear. We call her Bear 64F.

KELLY: Traverso says her colleagues safely tranquilized Hank, aka Bear 64F, last week after linking her to at least 21 break-ins since last year using DNA and forensic evidence.

TRAVERSO: It is wild animal "CSI," and it's actually - I think it's incredibly cool.

SUMMERS: It's not the first time wildlife officials have encountered 64F, either. She had an existing rap sheet. The department actually first captured and tagged her last year.

TRAVERSO: So this is how we know that we have bears that are repeat offenders - because we found their saliva in this home invasion and then this home invasion and then this one over here. And so that's how they get a rap sheet.

KELLY: OK. Here's the other thing to know. Bear 64F had cubs in the past year. Traverso says she was likely teaching them to hunt in the wild and inside people's homes.

TRAVERSO: In an ideal situation, a bear would teach their cubs how to get fish out of a river, how to find berries off of a berry plant. In this situation, because the food reward was so much easier to get - you don't have to chase it. You don't have to dig for it. Some human left it in a pile outside a bear box, and she was able to get in there and get it easily. A cub is going to learn how to get food from how its mother teaches it to do so, and that's what she would eventually end up teaching those cubs.

SUMMERS: Traverso also says there were other bears breaking into homes, too, but the animals aren't solely to blame in these situations.

TRAVERSO: Really, the bad behavior is amongst humans who are having attractants in their homes or not securing their garbage. And sometimes it's - one homeowner could be great, but your next-door neighbor might be a vacation home where some folks aren't doing what they have to do.

KELLY: Still, it's 64F and her cubs who will bear the brunt of the consequences of the growing urban fringe. Officials say 64F will now live out her life in a roomy sanctuary in Colorado.

TRAVERSO: It's a really actually lucky ending for a bear like this because we don't always have sanctuary space. We don't have the ability to send problem bears in California to Colorado. This is a very unique alternative that I don't imagine we'll be able to employ maybe ever again.

SUMMERS: And as for Hank's cubs, they'll undergo rehabilitation in Northern California to get them ready for release back into the wild. So, residents of South Lake Tahoe, consider yourself warned.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWEET CHARLES SHERRELL SONG, "YES IT'S YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.